On the heels of such extravagant historical swordplay epics as Hero
and House of Flying Daggers
, Mainland Chinese director Zhang Yimou
returns to the reins to tell this intimate tale of an aging father who attempts to remedy a longstanding rift with his grown son. Summoned to Tokyo by his daughter-in-law, Rie (Shinobu Terajima
), village fisherman Gou-ichi Takata (Ken Takakura
), arrives at a city hospital to find his son, Ken-ichi (Kiichi Nakai
), bedridden by liver cancer. Though Gou-ichi attempts to use the visit as a catalyst to heal a decade-long dispute between the pair, stubborn Ken-ichi rejects his father's attempt at reconciliation outright. Subsequently handed a videotape by Rie before departing back to the countryside, Gou-ichi returns home unsuccessful in his efforts to build a bridge of peace between himself and his ailing son. Upon watching the videotape, a research project exploring the Chinese folk arts that was shot by Ken-ichi in the Southern province of Yunnan, Gou-ichi is oddly affected by the onscreen failure of his son in convincing well-known opera singer Li Jiamin (playing himself) to perform the titular song, a classic operatic piece espousing the values of friendship. Now determined to travel to Yunnan and videotape the performance that his son could not, Gou-ichi embarks on a life-changing quest that will not only give him a greater understanding of the relationship between himself and his own son, but set into motion a healing process that will also have a profound impact on the troubled opera singer and the man's long-lost illegitimate son as well.